Taniela Tupou believes a young group of players and not having an experienced fly-half in the Wallabies’ Rugby World Cup squad played a big part in their failure to shine at the global showpiece in France.
Australia’s Rugby World Cup campaign went pear-shaped as they missed out on the knockout stages for the first time in the global showpiece’s history after defeats against Wales and Fiji.
In poor form throughout the year
Eddie Jones had replaced Dave Rennie as the Wallabies‘ head coach at the start of the year but the team had one of its least successful years in history under his guidance, winning just two of their nine internationals – against tier two nations Georgia and Portugal – during 2023.
During the World Cup the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Jones was interviewed on Zoom by Japan Rugby Football Union officials on August 25 about taking over as the Brave Blossoms’ head coach next year.
Jones denied that the interview took place but after the Wallabies’ woeful World Cup campaign he said he is “definitely interested” in taking the Japan coaching job.
Tupou, who spent a large portion of the World Cup on the sidelines due to injury, believes Australia’s youthful squad could not handle the pressure.
He also lamented the absence of an experienced number 10 in their ranks with 22-year-old Melbourne Rebels playmaker Carter Gordon the only recognised fly-half in Australia’s 33-man squad.
Jones made the controversial decision to omit veterans Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley from his squad and later said the duo were not the right “role models” for the team.
“When Eddie named that team [for the World Cup], what I was thinking at the time was that Eddie has been in the World Cup [before]. He knows what he’s doing. I’m going to trust him,” Tupou told the BallCarrier rugby podcast.
“Then I went to the World Cup and it didn’t happen. When the pressure was on, you needed guys who could handle pressure. We had guys who couldn’t do that.
“I don’t want to sit here and moan that it could have been this or that but an experienced 10 would have helped… or anyone who could have sat in the driver’s seat.
Very different squad
“When the team was named and I looked at the squad, it was a lot different to Dave [Rennie’s squad]. We knew how to play with each other.
“People will say we are the worst Wallabies team ever in a World Cup and whether we like it or not, it’s something we’re going to have to live with. It’s up to us to try and change that.”
Rugby Australia (RA) have announced that former Test duo Andrew Slack and Justin Harrison as well as high-performance expert Darlene Harrison have been appointed to conduct an external review into the Wallabies’ 2023 season.